08/03/2004 11:00PM

Primed for a repeat

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HENDERSON, Ky. - Bare Necessities, the millionaire mare who was an easy winner of the Gardenia Handicap last year, was scheduled to arrive here Thursday from Chicago to defend her title in the Gardenia on Saturday.

Bare Necessities will be seeking her first win in the care of veteran trainer Frank Kirby. This is her third race for him.

Kirby said the 5-year-old gray has been training exceptionally well at Arlington Park and is primed for a top effort in the Grade 3 Gardenia. Two workouts back, Bare Necessities posted a bullet six-furlong workout at Arlington in 1:13.

"We're vanning her down there ourselves," said Kirby, who currently leads the Arlington trainer standings.

The $200,000 Gardenia, the richest and only graded race of the Ellis meet, is run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Last year, Bare Necessities won by 5 1/4 lengths as the 2-5 favorite for her former trainer, Wally Dollase, and with just five other fillies and mares likely to face her Saturday, she figures to be a solid choice once again.

Bare Necessities, an earner of $1,035,751 for the Iron County Farms of George Middleton, came to Kirby after being narrowly beaten in the Sixty Sails at Hawthorne in April. Since then, she has finished second to Adoration in the June 12 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs and third in the July 4 Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park.

"I think she had some little excuses in both races," said Kirby, who has been training for nearly 50 years. "This race Saturday looks like a real good spot for her. She sure ran big there last year."

With weights and riders, this is the prospective lineup for the 23rd Gardenia: Bare Necessities, 119, Rene Douglas; Wildwood Royal, 117, Danush Sukie; Miss Fortunate, 116, Brian Peck; Salzurita, 115, Willie Martinez; Angela's Love, 114, Mark Guidry; and New Dreams, 114, Brice Blanc.

Wildwood Flower, based at Fairmount Park with trainer Jimmy Zook, has won her last four starts, the last three coming at Prairie Meadows.

Gardenia entries were scheduled to be drawn Thursday.

Another Mojica gives Kentucky a try

Jockey Rafael Mojica Jr., winner of the 1991 Eclipse Award for top apprentice, is moving his tack to the Kentucky circuit.

Mojica, 34, said he intends to ride the last two weeks of the Ellis meet and at the Turfway Park meet that starts Sept. 8.

"I've always heard good things about Kentucky," said Mojica, who in recent years has ridden with moderate success in New Jersey and Florida. "I wanted to give it a try, and now is a good time to try."

Mojica has ridden in the U.S. since 1990. From 6,910 mounts, he has 563 wins, and his mounts have earned over $12.9 million.

Mojica's younger brother, Orlando, has ridden primarily in Kentucky and neighboring states for the least several years. The men are from Puerto Rico.

Rafael Mojica's business will be handled by Michael McGary, who is known by the name Clarence. The end of a 90-day suspension for McGary coincides with Mojica's arrival. McGary was ruled off all Churchill Downs properties in mid-May for cashing tickets that required IRS notification for other patrons.

Never on Saturday for Bejarano

Rafael Bejarano, who into Wednesday led all North America jockeys with 281 wins this year, will keep his Saturday record perfect at this Ellis meet, where he is easily the leading rider. Bejarano has missed all four Saturdays at the meet when riding elsewhere.

Bejarano will ride Sir Shackleton for trainer Nick Zito in the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park on Saturday.

Steve Elzey, Bejarano's agent, said the jockey is scheduled to be here the following Saturday, Aug. 14, when riding Golden Marlin in the $100,000 Ellis Park Breeders' Cup.

Arlington BC likely next for Champali

Champali, the 4-year-old colt who has emerged as a top sprinter following back-to-back wins in the Aristides and Smile Sprint handicaps, probably will make his next start in the Aug. 28 Arlington BC Sprint, said trainer Greg Foley.

Foley, who was at Ellis on Wednesday to saddle Stormcloudrising to a runner-up finish in the first race, said Champali has thrived at Churchill Downs since returning from the Smile at Calder. Champali also is nominated to the Aug. 14 Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga but is more likely for the $150,000 Arlington BC at six furlongs, said Foley.

Reed temporarily in charge

Billy Reed, the former sportswriter who now works as a media liaison for the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, temporarily is in charge of the regulatory body's Lexington office following the retirement of Jesse Skees.

Skees, a lifetime bureaucrat who had served as the KHRA's interim executive director since January, retired from government work July 31. The KHRA continues to seek a permanent replacement for the position.

* Out-of-town fans looking to come to Ellis Park this weekend may want to check ahead for lodging accommodations. Hotel rooms are very scarce in the Evansville area because of the "Frog Follies," a highly popular antique car show that traditionally coincides with Gardenia weekend.

* This is the first year since 1999 that Ellis has raced on Mondays, and apparently the word has not spread very far. Ontrack attendance on the four Monday cards so far has averaged less than 1,100.

* Another Daily Racing Form/NTRA handicapping contest is set for Friday at Ellis. The winner gets $500 and a spot in the handicapping finals in Las Vegas in January. This is the second of three contests at the meet.